Apple Strudel with Caramelized Walnuts
Strudel di Mele con Noci

serves: 10 servings

Strudel seems like a complex dessert but once you have a feeling for the dough and its elasticity, all else is elementary. I recall my grandma saying that for the strudel to be good you need to be able to read the newspaper through the stretched dough, so rolling and stretching it as thin as you can is the key to a special strudel. Keep one idea in mind: do not be afraid to handle the dough, lift it up on the back of your hands, curl your fingers into a fist and stretch the dough with your knuckles. It will yield and stretch without tearing. Or, grasp one edge and lift the sheet above the work surface and let it hang free-just the force of gravity will make it stretch. Or, if you have someone to help you, pull the dough from opposite sides-it will stretch that way too. Don't worry if the edges remain a bit thicker you can cut those off with a pizza cutter before filling the strudel. This is a large strudel it can be served for a couple of days. Baked strudel freezes well so leftover pieces can be wrapped well and frozen for a couple of months. Defrost when needed and reheat before serving.


For the Strudel Dough
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
5 tablespoons water

For the Filling
1 cup golden raisins
4 tablespoons dark rum
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups sugar
1 cup walnuts, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces
3 pounds Granny Smith apples
2 small lemons
10 tablespoons butter, very soft
2 tablespoons cane sugar crystals


Mix the strudel dough several hours or the day before baking. In a large bowl, toss together the 1 1/4 cups flour and salt with a fork. Drizzle the oil all over and toss with the flour. Sprinkle the water over and toss it in, a tablespoon at a time, then mix vigorously to bring the dough together. Incorporate more water in small amounts if the dough seems dry or won't stay together.

Turn the dough out on a work surface and knead with your hands until the clumps have disappeared and the dough is smooth and elastic, about three minutes. Add flour only if the dough remains sticky after you've been kneading for a minute or more.

Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature or refrigerate for a day. (Let chilled dough sit at room temperature briefly before rolling.)

Plump the raisins with the rum in a small bowl, until all the liquor is absorbed.

Spread the bread crumbs in a large heavy skillet and set it over medium heat. Stir and toss the crumbs until they begin to color. Lower the heat a bit and keep stirring until they're deep golden brown, then quickly spill the crumbs into a bowl, before they burn. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon over the hot crumbs and toss in. When the crumbs cool completely stir in 10 tablespoons sugar.

In the same skillet, again over medium heat, stir together the chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons sugar, until the sugar caramelizes and coats the nuts. Immediately spill into a bowl to cool.

Rinse and dry the lemons, remove their zest with a fine grater, and squeeze out and strain their juice. Peel, core and cut the apples in thin slices and toss in a large bowl with the lemon zest and juice, the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss in the plumped raisins, mix well, and let the apples steep in the sweetened fruit juices.

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 425 degrees. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the parchment in the sheet pan with a tablespoon or 2 of soft butter.

On a large, lightly floured work surface, start rolling the strudel dough into a rectangular shape, turning it over frequently and dusting the surface with flour as needed. When it becomes a thin sheet, stretch it with your hands, both on the table and as you lift and turn it over. Gradually roll and stretch the rectangle until it's about 30-inches on the long sides and 20- inches on the shorter sides. Trim thick edges with a knife or pizza cutter.

Now arrange a linen tablecloth or sheet (a yard square or larger) on the table-under the dough sheet-to roll up the strudel. If someone can assist you, hold the dough sheet in the air while the cloth is placed flat and smooth on the work surface. Line up a long edge of cloth with the edge of your counter. Lay the dough flat on top of the cloth, with its long side left to right in front of you, set in a few inches from the edge of the cloth and. (If you don't have a helper, lay out the cloth on another surface and move the dough rectangle over to it.)

When the cloth and the dough are in place, brush the entire surface of the dough with 4 tablespoons or so of soft butter. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly all over the dough then scatter the caramelized walnut pieces on top.

Next, lift the apple slices from the bowl, letting excess juices drain off, and heap them in a narrow row, running left to right, set in about 3-inches from the long edge of dough near you. Make the row straight and compact and slightly shorter than the dough, sheet, so there are several inches of bare dough on the left and right sides of the apple row.

To roll the strudel, grasp the edge of the cloth and lift it, bringing the uncovered margin of dough against the apples. Hold the cloth close to the filling, so you have good control, then lift and push it forward, rolling the entire row of apples over and wrapping it snugly in dough. Keep rolling to wrap all the dough around the strudel, forming a long neat log. Twist the unfilled flaps of dough on the ends of the log, so they're snug against the filling, then trim and tuck them under the strudel.

Position the long side of the parchment lined baking sheet against the strudel-get a helper again if you can-and use the cloth to roll the long log over the rim, onto the pan (the ends will extend out of the pan). Roll again, if necessary, so the seam of dough is on the bottom. Gently curve the ends of the log, bringing them onto the sheet, giving the strudel a crescent or horseshoe shape.

Brush the pastry all over with the remaining butter. With a sharp thin knife, slice several short slits in the top, as steam vents, cutting through all the dough layers. Sprinkle the cane sugar crystals over the top.

Put the strudel into the oven and lower the thermostat to 375 degrees. After 30 minutes, rotate the baking sheet back to front. The pastry should be lightly colored-if it's already getting dark, lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake another 20 to 30 minutes, until the filling is cooked (the juices may bubble through the slits) and the pastry is deep golden brown and crisp.

Let the strudel cool in the pan for 30 minutes or so then lift it with two long spatulas to a wire rack or board. Serve slices of the strudel warm or at room temperature, with powdered sugar, a cream sauce, whipped cream or ice cream.